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It runs in the family for Avani Sabade. At just 21, she’s the captain of India’s very first women’s Rugby team. Her mother played cricket and was a state level rifle shooter who also won a gold medal for Maharashtra. Her father has been a state level badminton player. “So sport comes naturally to me,” she says.
This youngster had gone to Khare’s Football and Rugby Academy after she passed out of school to learn Football. “But when I saw Rugby drills, I was so fascinated that I signed up for Rugby instead!”
Can you describe your background?
Avani was into sports right from her school days. “Me and my brother have broken enough glass panes while playing football and cricket as kids,” she says with a smile.
Known as a tomboy as a kid, her parents were naturally very supportive when they learnt that their daughter wanted to pursue Rugby as a career. Avani did her schooling from Maharashtra Vidya Mandal and went on to do her B.A. in Philosophy from Ferguson College. She is currently doing her M.A. in Philosophy from Pune University. Leadership qualities come naturally to her; she has captained the dodge ball team while in school.
What was the turning point? how did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
It was after the All India Womens Rugby Championship that everything changed for her. The Pune team lead by her won the series. She was among the 22 girls selected for a three day Rugby camp at Bombay Gymkhana. “13 of us were selected for the national squad and I was extremely thrilled to be selected,” she says.
What is your daily practice regime ?
Avani works out in the gym for 90 minutes and then practises for another 90 minutes. “These sessions vary. Sometimes these are endurance sessions or they are passing or tackling sessions too,” she says. She was coached under Swapneel and Surhud Khare for nearly five years.
When Avani is not working out or playing, she is reading or watching TV.
How serious is Rugby as a sport in India?
The Indian Rugby team is already making waves. It has played in two international tournaments and have performed well in both.
The team has beaten Malaysia twice at the Tri-nation Tournament between Thailand, Malaysia and India and become second runners up. “It really feels great to perform so well in your debut,” a glowing captain says. “This is a dream come true – we never expected our team to be chosen!” she says.
The team has also played another tournament in Thailand where 13 other teams from countries like China, Singapore, Iran, Cambodia and Malaysia took part. There the team defeated Cambodia twice. According to Avani, the team has a lot of scope if given the right kind of exposure. “The team has been showing improvement with each game,” she says.
Advice to students?
So does she want to say something to youngsters who want to take up sport professionally? “Try out different sports till you know which one is the best and simply go for it,” she says.